MELBOURNE • Serena Williams said that she has impressed even herself with the way she keeps fighting at age 35, after battling into an 11th Australian Open quarter-final yesterday to keep pace with her sister Venus.
The American powerhouse's unrelenting quest for a record 23rd Grand Slam title and the return of her top world ranking was tested by Czech 16th seed Barbora Strycova, but she dug deep to win 7-5, 6-4 in hot conditions.
She will now face the dangerous Johanna Konta tomorrow for a place in the semi-finals, after the Briton crushed Ekaterina Makarova 6-1, 6-4.
Following the exit of top seed Angelique Kerber, Williams can again become world No. 1 if she lifts the trophy this week, with her desire to win still burning bright.
"I think it's impressive. I think in general people our age aren't really playing at a top level, so indeed, it's definitely impressive," she said, when asked about the capacity of her and her sister, who is 36, to keep playing.
"Venus and I are mentally eight and nine, so that's why we're probably able to play a little better.
DAY 8 RESULTS
Men's 4th round
David Goffin (Bel) bt Dominic Thiem (Aut) 5-7 7-6 (7-4) 6-2 6-2, Grigor Dimitrov (Bul) bt Denis Istomin (Uzb) 2-6 7-6 (7-2) 6-2 6-1, Milos Raonic (Can) bt Roberto Bautista (Esp) 7-6 (8-6) 3-6 6-4 6-1, Rafael Nadal (Esp) bt Gael Monfils (Fra) 6-3 6-3 4-6 6-4.
Women's 4th round
Johanna Konta (Gbr) bt Ekaterina Makarova (Rus) 6-1 6-4, Serena Williams (Usa) bt Barbora Strycova (Cze) 7-5 6-4, Mirjana Lucic-Baroni (Cro) bt Jennifer Brady (Usa) 6-4 6-2, Karolina Pliskova (Cze) bt Daria Gavrilova (Aus) 6-3 6-3.
"I feel like when you put in the hard work, the results, eventually, they show up."
Williams winning the title on Saturday would rewrite history. She is not just chasing a seventh Melbourne crown, but also a 23rd Grand Slam to surpass Steffi Graf's Open-era record.
When asked about facing Konta, the American said: "I have watched her game a lot. She's been playing really well.
"She has a very attacking game. I know her game pretty well. I look forward to it.
"I have absolutely nothing to lose in this tournament. Everything here is a bonus for me."
Konta, on a nine-match winning streak, is shaping up as a genuine title contender after she demolished Makarova.
STAT OF THE DAY
Matches Johanna Konta won in a row leading up to her last-eight clash with Serena Williams tomorrow.
"I'm really happy to have come through that," she said courtside of the 1hr 9min victory that looked like being a lot quicker when she brushed the Russian aside in the first set. "I came out playing at a higher level than she did but she was able to pull herself back into the match and made it really difficult for me.
"I just had to trust myself. At least it wasn't three hours like when we played last year."
Konta added that she is a big fan of Williams, who won the first of her six Australian Open titles when the Briton was an 11-year-old growing up in the Sydney suburbs.
INSPIRATION TO HER CAREER
She was one of the players I watched growing up, as a young girl wanting to be a professional tennis player. It’s an incredible honour and I can’t wait to share the court with her. I will definitely cherish every single minute.
JOHANNA KONTA, on how Serena Williams inspired her to fulfil her dream of becoming a tennis player.
The 25-year-old said that she cannot wait to face the tennis great.
"Believe it or not, that's going to be an incredible experience for me. She was one of the players I watched growing up, as a young girl wanting to be a professional tennis player," Konta said.
"It's an incredible honour and I can't wait to share the court with her. I will definitely cherish every single minute."
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS, THE GUARDIAN
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